Controversy Mounts over Yahoo! API Access

The Web Analytics Association (WAA) is crying foul, saying Yahoo has denied some of its members third-party vendor access to Overture APIs (define). The companies sought access because they’re developing bid-management tools that would integrate with Overture’s system.

Yahoo wouldn’t comment on the denial, saying only that it’s made no changes to its policies and is working proactively with analytics vendors on a solution.

“The Web Analytics Association is gravely concerned with the allegations that Yahoo is going to withdraw API access to Web analytics vendors and other third-party companies that manage online ad spend,” said Bryan Eisenberg, WAA chairman, in a statement.

According to Eisenberg, Yahoo did not give a clear explanation of why it declined applications by some WAA members who recently tried to sign up for the program. SEM agencies with proprietary tools, as well as vendors like Atlas OnePoint, have historically been allowed to access the APIs.

Asked about the subject of Web analytics vendors, a Yahoo spokesperson would only say, “We’ve been working proactively with Web analytics companies to determine how they would like to add value to their customers’ campaign tracking needs, how we can expand our API program to help them achieve that, and how that can extend the value of advertising on Yahoo and the Overture network.”

Singling out analytics vendors is not fair, contends Eisenberg. “How is a bid management tool from a Web analytics vendor different than one from an SEM?” he asked.

The issue began heating up late last week when Frank Watson, principal of SEM firm Smart-Keywords, posted his concerns about a conversation he had with Yahoo to the Search Engine Watch forums, where he is a moderator. He spoke with Yahoo after his analytics provider, WebSideStory, was allegedly refused access to the API program.

“They said they were not giving anyone access to the APIs moving forward, and they wouldn’t say what would happen to existing customers going forward,” Watson told ClickZ News. “I have a client who spends $1 million a month on PPC. Obviously they need good metrics.”

Yahoo told him it was a matter of “not ‘no,’ but not ‘now,'” implying that it would allow Web analytics vendors to join the program at some point in the future.

WebSideStory declined to comment on the situation, but referred inquiries to the WAA, of which it is a founding member. Eisenberg would not comment on which members specifically were having problems with gaining access to Overture’s APIs, but he did say that several members of the organization had come to him with concerns.

The Overture APIs have been available to partners since 2001. Overture’s policy has been to let advertisers use its APIs for free, while charging third-party developers and technology providers a fee to cover costs incurred to maintain the system. It is commonly used by search engine marketers, optimizers and tool vendors to integrate their own campaign management tools more closely with Overture’s.

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